Eric Kress Lighting Workshop - Part 4

thefilmbook by Benjamin B

This is Part 4 of the Lighting Workshop that I organized with cinematographer Eric Kress during Gokinema at Gothenburg Film Studios.

Here I offer a video summary of the workshop, along with links to download the dailies.

The first 3 parts have generated many comments, questions and encouragements, in various blogs on the net, via email and in person. I try to respond to some of this feedback in this post.

If you're intrigued by the video summary you might want to watch the 3 videos documenting the workshop -- starting with Part 1 (see links at very bottom of this post)

The video summary places the dailies above the lighting diagrams for each of the 6 variations


6 variations x 2

In PARTS 1 2 and 3 of the workshop video, Eric demonstrated 6 lighting variations around a window on the sound stage set, shooting first an angle on Matilda, and then a matching angle on Pontus.

1. a single exterior soft key source

2. adding an exterior poly bounce as a background light (and an additional Kino on the darkness behind Pontus).

3. adding an interior fill on the same side of camera as the key

4. an exterior hard light "sun" source (with gaffer tape finger)

5. an interior backlight

6. replacing the side fill with an interior top light


the video

This video acts as a condensed version of the entire workshop, simultaneously showing the matching close-ups and lighting diagrams for the six variations. I must note that the initial presentation was edited by my collaborator Barbaros Gokdemir.

The jump cuts are mine, I thought it interesting to show the light being built up, and also to watch the lighting steps in reverse, to get an appreciation of what happens when you strip away the sources. If possible watch the video in HD as it contains 4 screens of information.


Watch on YouTube


download the dailies

I have uploaded the dailies for some of the variations on Matilda and Pontus to thefilmbook wetransfer channel. This is my first attempt at crowd distribution of dailies. Let me know if you have any problems!

Here are the links to the Alexa HD dailies in ProRes 422:

Variation 1 (single source) -- Matilda & Pontus 1820 MB (both takes)

Variation 2 (no fill) -- Matilda 748 MB - Pontus 863 MB

Variation 3 (with fill) -- Matilda 613 MB - Pontus 980 MB

Variation 4 (with sunlight) -- Matilda 624 MB - Pontus 979 MB

Variation 5 (final) -- Matilda 658 MB - Pontus 690 MB

Variation 6 (final with top light) -- Matilda 713 MB - Pontus 865 MB

This way you can see what the 422 ProRes camera original looks like. The links were up during the month of April 2014. Please email me if you would like me to extend these links now: kressedit "at"

Note that dailies need to be resized, with a horizontal un-squeeze of x1.3,

yielding 2496 x 1080 pixels.


any editors out there?

If you feel like editing the dailies, I would love to see your different edits matching -- or mismatching -- Matilda and Pontus, and I will post your edits on the web. Feel free, of course, to put in your own audio track :)

If you would like to share an edit you made, email me:

kressedit "at"


response to your feedback

The first 3 videos of Eric's workshop have generated a range of interesting questions and comments, on this site and YouTube, but notably in Robert Hardy's blog on nofilmschool, as well as Mike Wilkinson's blog on I have also gotten comments via mail and in person. I have taken the liberty of reproducing some of these comments below, with my notes and responses.

However I want to be underline that I am not Eric Kress :) I do not speak as an established cinematographer or authority, but as a journalist and student of lighting. So please consider my remarks as just another viewpoint. Also please don't hesitate to add your own comments and questions at the bottom of this post.



Tim Bieker - YouTube

Unfortunately i didn't see the difference between finger and no finger. Can someone tell me what exactly changed and why it was used?

A finger is normally the word for a long black rectangular flag, by extension it's used here to designate a piece of gaffer tape on the window.

Eric put in the gaffer tape "finger" to block the "sunlight" source from Matilda's neck, because he thought her neck was too bright without it.

I agree that we did not do a good job of showing her neck with and without the finger.


Timothy Jace - fstoppers

It's easy when you have a big budget

Well yes and no.

Eric's equipment list is quite reasonable: the biggest lighting fixture is an Alpha 4K, and the Alexa is a fairly common camera these days. I would say that the equipment used here is on the lower end of features, however it is on the higher end of industrials and short films.

Perhaps more important, the Gothenburg crew is very professional, and that is one reason Eric was able to do 12 set-ups during the workshop.


cymbolic florin - YouTube

the fill light is creating an unnatural look when she hugs him: the light on her hands is too powerful. It should've been placed at the limit of the two actors not behind him or on the contrary far behind him.

You make a valid point. I think that Eric was looking for a "wrap-around" fill, from the same side as the main source. The fill couldn't be placed farther back though because of the set wall. The top light might address your issues.


Michael Markham - nofilmschool

If I added anything to it it would have been a reflector or bounce on the inside of the room to fill her face a tiny bit, rather than using the Kino. I felt the Kino made the back wall too hot. But that’s just my preference.

Eric made a choice to have the fill on the same side of camera as the soft key. This gives the fill more of a "wrap-around" feeling than if it was inside the room, on the other side of camera. Creating a fill on the inside of the room as you suggest is another possibility.


DLD - nofilmschool

I liked the last, lighter version … this didn’t look like a very dramatic scene that required heavy film noir type shading … I may have even added more fill

The amount of fill is indeed "key" :) to creating the mood.


Sergio Reynoso - YouTube

I wish they told us the what was the lens aperture. Great video over all.

Our bad for not noting the T-stop. I believe that it was T2.8, based on the photo below ;)

Eric Kress takes a reading of Pontus' fillwhiteline775


Dan McMahon - nofilmschool

Coming from the DIY world of indy film-making, and having never PA’ed on a professional film set its pretty mind blowing to see how much time and man-power goes into setting up the lighting or one shot. I wonder how much preparation goes into a scene like this before they arrive on set? Does Eric layout a general map of how he thinks the lighting should be beforehand and then arrives on set and adjusts from there? I also enjoyed hearing a few bits of film set vernacular like “finger” for a small piece of gaffer’s tape to block light.

Eric came in about an hour before the beginning of the workshop to preset some lights with the crew, but as you saw in the video he also modified his plan as his lighting evolved.

My experience from talking with many feature film cinematographers is that they often have a general lighting plan after seeing a location or set, and then modify or even sometimes discard that plan after watching the actors rehearse with the director.


mariano - nofilmschool

It was a beautiful result but ... I also thought that the set up looked overwhelming, not only that, I wondered how far you could move anything, camera or cast before anything of the lighting stuff would show. It appeared to me that there were mere inches before a flag, net or light would show in some corner.

You're absolutely right. The aim of the exercise was to light for 2 matching close-ups, and this lighting set-up would not work for a wide shot. At the same time, it's my experience that many cinematographers will add more lights and flags as they move in from a wide to close-up.

In many ways, what Eric is showing us here is a classical approach to lighting. Other approaches might try to create a general soft light that will work for both wide shots and close-ups. And others still strive to completely avoid the convention of "coverage" with wide shot and matching over the shoulder shots. Back in the 1960s, cinematographer Raoul Coutard put a bunch of photofloods on the ceilings on locations of the early films of Jean-Luc Godard, to enable the director to shoot in any direction he wanted.


Michael Tapp - YouTube

I like how he lit up the background in part two. It really looks like the room is lit up by daylight in part two. With that being said, there must be a way to get to this look without so much schmutz! Thank you for sharing this content. It's very educational!

Interesting question. Of course the lighting could be simpler, but you might not get the same look. Each light here does a different job, in order to get this complex look with fewer sources, you need to figure out a way to have a single source do several jobs. It truly is a challenge to get complex lighting, for example sunlight plus soft fill from the same direction, with a single source.


rolithesecond - YouTube

the fun part is that no one except the guy trying to get great lighting will ever notice that, for example, the reflection on the picture in the background is more subtle. in short: it s nice people enjoy their job, but one can overdo it

This for me is a good subject for debate. The question you raise is how much does the audience really see? I may be optimistic, but I believe the audience feels and appreciates many subtleties in the image, even if they don't consciously notice it, or don't articulate it.

Also, in the age of digital video, a frame can be eternal, especially if it's part of an important film. So that dimmed reflection on the picture might get noticed a lot and even analyzed if it's part of a great film like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


Graeme - nofilmschool

Interesting piece – Kress’ gaffer really seems to know her stuff! However, for me the issue of eyelights is never really addressed. Some people demand to see “life” in the eyes and to me, even in the completed set up the actress looks pretty “murky” in there. Anyone else feel a proper discussion on how to use or not use eyelights would be useful here?

As mentioned earlier most of the sources are on the same side of camera as the key, except for the back lights. This means that the actors will have less of glint in their eyes if they look towards the inside of the room. But that could also work dramatically.


workshop & video credits

cinematographer - Eric Kress

moderator - Benjamin B


Matilda Jelse

Pontus Tornqvist Loven


gaffer - Luisa Fanciullacci

1st AC - Filip Lyman

set designer - Kristina Sandfors

on-set DIT/editor - Jonas Andersson

producers - Benjamin B & Michael Petersen

Gokinema at Gothenburg Film Studios


with the support of

Marc Galerne - K5600 Lighting Europe

Jacques Delacoux - Transvideo

Anders Johannsson - Media Teknik

video cameramen - Abdul Danesh, Michael Petersen, Nokokure Zaire

video editor - Barbaros Gokdemir

video by Benjamin B



Eric Kress website

imdb: Eric Kress

wikipedia: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009 by Niels Arden Oplev)

YouTube: trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

wikipedia: Borgen TV series

Gokinema - yearly event with workshops, seminars, trade show

Gothenburg Film Studios

K5600 Lighting


Barbaros Gokdemir on vimeo

imdb: Barbaros Gokdemir

Robert Hardy's insightful comments about the Part 1 video on the nofilmschool site.

Mike Wilkinson's comments about the Parts 1 & 2 video on


This is the last post in the series


thefilmbook: Eric Kress Lighting Workshop - Part 1

thefilmbook: Eric Kress Lighting Workshop - Part 2

thefilmbook: Eric Kress Lighting Workshop - Part 3

thefilmbook: Eric Kress Lighting Workshop - Part 4





Subscribe Today

Act now to receive 12 issues of the award-winning AC magazine — the world’s finest cinematography resource.

Print Edition   Digital Edition
March 2021 AC Magazine Cover February 2021 AC Magazine Cover January 2021 AC Magazine Cover